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Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology
Volume 14, Suppl B, Pages 30B-35B
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2000/203894

Early Changes in Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) RNA Levels Predict Response to Interferon Treatment in Non-Cirrhotic HCV Patients

Glen Fallows,1 Kelly Kaita,1 Gerald Minuk,1 Faye Penner,1 Gerry Smart,2 Magdy Dawood,2 and Barry Rosser1

1Liver Diseases Unit, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
2Cadham Laboratories, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Received 3 December 1998; Accepted 10 February 1999

Copyright © 2000 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

The role of hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA quantification in determining ideal interferon (IFN) treatment of noncirrhotic HCV liver disease is uncertain. The specific aim of this study was to determine whether measurement of baseline HCV RNA or changes in HCV RNA levels ( HCV RNA) early during therapy predict response to IFN in noncirrhotic HCV patients.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: Twenty-one noncirrhotic patients with chronic HCV were treated with 3 MU IFN -2a three times per week. HCVRNA levels were determined at baseline and after two, four, six, eight and 12 weeks of treatment. BaselineHCV RNA and HCV RNA during therapy were compared with treatment response results at six months. Data were expressed as mean SE, and differences were assessed using Student’s t test.

RESULTS: Twenty-one patients initiated IFN therapy. Two patients were noncompliant and lost to follow-up. One patient discontinued IFN due to side effects. Apart from age, where responders tended to be younger than nonresponders, the baseline clinical characteristics and alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase, bilirubin and HCV RNA levels did not differ between IFN responders and nonresponders. Levels of HCVRNA were significantly lower after both two and four weeks of therapy in IFN responders compared with nonresponders (P<0.001). Changes in log HCV RNA levels after both two and four weeks of therapy were significantly greater in IFN responders compared with nonresponders (P<0.001). Changes in log HCV RNA of more than 1.0 after two weeks of IFN therapy identified all six-month responders, with a sensitivity of 100% and a specificity of 89%. Potential financial impact of these findings on patients’ management was also calculated. Decisions regarding discontinuation of therapy based on early changes in HCV RNA levels would result in a 40% to 50% reduction in IFN cost.

CONCLUSIONS: In noncirrhotic HCV patients, the change in quantitative HCV RNA after the first two weeks of IFN therapy identifies responders. This finding would result in a 40% to 50% cost savings if decisions about continuing IFN were based on early changes in HCVRNA levels rather than ALT or HCVRNA assessment after the completion of three months of IFN treatment.